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Adventure Travel

Hiking Middle Eastern History on the New Jordan Trail

Star-shot skies over vast deserts, fertile valleys, and a footpath that follows some of humanity’s oldest trade routes: The new, 400-mile Jordan Trail offers a month-long immersion in the Middle East.

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It took 20 years to formalize the Jordan Trail, but the route has been in use since the Old Testament times.

To walk across some–or all–of the path offers the chance to follow ancient trade routes between villages and track the course of history. Travelers pass through colonnades and under the arches of countless Greco-Roman ruins, but also an Islamic castle, and the carved-in-stone city of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ancient tombs in Jordan
Ancient tombs line the way to PetraPhoto by Ben Fullerton

The route starts in the northwest corner of the country near the Sea of Galilee. The first section is well marked and southbound travelers pass villages with home-stay options and wilderness camping at the edges, making the first 50 miles from Umm Qais to Aljoun Castle good for DIY adventurers.

The Treasury in Jordan
The iconic Treasury was built 2,000 years ago by the NabataeansPhoto by Andy Austin

From there, the trail markings grow scarcer and the adventure ramps up. Olive trees dot the landscape and the trail dips in and out of farmlands and lush valleys as it heads deeper into the country. The terrain changes almost by the day. Towns with hilltop churches give way to the wide landscapes of the Jordan Valley en route to the fertile wadis (canyons) around the Dead Sea.

Aljoun Castle in Jordan
Aljoun Castle in northern Jordan is the only Islamic citadel in the countryPhoto by Jessica Lokker

The southern half of the journey passes ruins and rock walls and picks up the camel route from Little Petra to Petra and Wadi Rum, where Bedouin tent encampments sit in the shadows of sandstone spires.

Wadi Munoz in Jordan
Get your feet wet in Wadi Munoz, near the Dead SeaPhoto by Andy Austin

Good camping is abundant, but water can be scarce and routefinding a challenge. Guide services can offer car support for water portage, plus act as ambassadors to the Bedouins.

A Jordanian in Jordan
Photo by Ben Fullerton

The trail’s final stretch descends from the Aqaba Mountains to the Red Sea, where hikers can swim in the languid, blue waters and wash off a kingdom’s worth of sand and sun.

Getting There

Fly to Amman; bus to regional hubs Season Fall and spring for mild weather Total Cost $1,200 for the DIY section (flight from New York, ground transportation, lodging)

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